‘Ready to go,’ but vaccine supply lags in Nevada
Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick on Thursday drew a parallel between the sluggish rollout of vaccines to how local officials administered COVID-19 testing: Start small and then ramp up.
“It’s the same scenario,” she said during a virtual briefing with reporters alongside Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev.
But while Kirkpatrick said the county presently has the infrastructure in place to administer 92,000 immunization shots per week without assistance from private partners, the county is only currently getting 22,000 weekly doses of vaccine from the federal government.
“You have to have the supplies in order to build capacity,” she said. “We have all the pieces in place, we just really need more of the vaccine and we’ll be ready to go.”
Therein lies the dilemma facing Nevada officials at the moment: How can the state acquire more vaccine doses faster to keep up with demand?
State behind, formula murky
Nevada has routinely ranked near the bottom of national lists for both receiving doses and administering them to people, leading Gov. Steve Sisolak to question the state’s standing in a letter on Sunday to federal officials.
Horsford, who together with Kirkpatrick toured two vaccination sites in the county on Thursday, said he was committed to coordinating with others in Nevada’s federal delegation to ensure local officials received the support they needed to streamline the vaccination process.
And he also said the delegation was working with state and local officials to get answers from the Biden administration on why Nevada’s vaccine rollout per capita has been behind most other states, calling it “absolutely a priority” for Nevada to get its fair and equitable share.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said recently Nevada’s actions have determined its distribution numbers, although a Review-Journal analysis showed that the state has thus far been shorted in receiving its full allocation.
Clarification is still needed on the federal government’s formula for allocating doses, and Horsford said he and other Nevada lawmakers asked for answers during a Wednesday call with the White House and they were told it is based on U.S. Census data of the state’s adult population from 2017-18, “which is part of the problem.”
More doses welcomed
Horsford said the methodology might also not be accounting for one of the vaccines that is approved for people 16 years and older, and that two companies that are in the final stages of vaccine approval would help boost capacity.
He also noted that the Biden administration announced Tuesday it would increase state allocations by 16 percent, which should see Southern Nevada receiving an additional 5,800 Moderna doses over the next three-week period.
Relief package on table
Beyond lifting the state’s vaccination numbers, Horsford is eyeing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s proposed coronavirus relief package that would offer funding to the local and state responses to the pandemic, including expanding vaccinations, as well as giving money to households, small businesses, reopening schools and more.
Horsford said he wants a bipartisan deal but ultimately pledged to act regardless of Republican support.
“This is not a time to not take the actions that are necessary to do what’s right for the American people,” he said.
And as the Clark County School District prepares to open classrooms for its youngest students on March 1, Kirkpatrick said the county would do whatever it could to ensure educators and all support staff, including bus drivers, were given an opportunity to be vaccinated before returning to school.
During a briefing Thursday, Superintendent Jesus Jara said the district was working with UNLV to prioritize vaccinations for school employees needed to support the hybrid teaching model set to begin in a month for preschool through third grade students.
Veterans’ group reaches milestone
Meanwhile, the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System announced it would be administering its 10,000th dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Friday, reaching a new milestone as its rates surpass the national VA averages.
The local health care system has vaccinated more than 5,200 veterans and about 2,400 health care workers, it said in a statement Thursday. Its veterans vaccination rate (8.89 percent) is better than the national 8.07 percent average, while 74.14 percent of its staff have received shots, putting it above the 61.89 national average for VA health care systems.
“We are proud to be one of the leaders in vaccinations not only within Southern Nevada, but among VA facilities nationwide,” Director and CEO William J. Caron said in the statement.